A Detroit woman is suing the city and a police officer, saying she was falsely arrested when she was eight months pregnant and accused of a carjacking based on facial recognition technology that is the target of lawsuits filed by three Black Michigan residents.
Porcha Woodruff, a 32-year-old Black woman, was preparing her two children for school on Feb. 16 when six Detroit police officers showed up at her house and presented her with an arrest warrant for robbery and carjacking, said a lawsuit filed in a Michigan federal court. "This case was shocking to me, to say the least," says attorney Ivan Land.
"My two children had to witness their mother being arrested," Woodruff said. "They stood there crying as I was brought away." Prosecutors dismissed the case in March for insufficient evidence, reports Scripps News.
The lawsuit says that Woodruff has suffered, among other things, "past and future emotional distress" because of the arrest. Woodruff said her pregnancy already had complications that she worried the stress surrounding the arrest would exacerbate. "I could have lost my child," Woodruff said.
Woodruff was identified as a subject in a January robbery and carjacking through the Detroit Police Department’s facial recognition technology, said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. Detroit detectives showed a photo lineup to the carjacking victim, who positively identified Woodruff.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan asked the Detroit Police Department to end the use of the facial recognition technology that led to Woodruff's arrest.
The ACLU said the case is the third known allegation of a wrongful arrest by Detroit police based on the technology. Robert Williams, a Black man, who was arrested when facial recognition technology mistakenly identified him as a shoplifter, sued Detroit police in 2021.
Another Black man, Michael Oliver, sued the city in 2021, claiming that his false arrest because of the technology in 2019 led him to lose his job.
"They're not equipped to deal with facial recognition," says Land. "You just don't receive a hit and just send out the warrant even if the victim picks them out. You still go further with your investigation just to make sure you are arresting the correct person."
Critics say the technology results in a higher misidentification rate of people of color than of whites.